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Hey there, potty training parents. Come on over and take a seat.
I see you. I know you. If you were sitting next to me, I could probably smell you, too, because chances are you have urine and feces somewhere on your person. Maybe on your shirt or in your hair. Some days there’s really no way to 100% identify the exact location or source of the stink but… it’s there. Lingering like a fog in the air and singed into the lining of your nostrils for the foreseeable future.
Listen, I have been there.
There was once a day not too long ago when I was convinced that urine would be the death of me. Cleaning it up off the floor, changing wet pants, doing loads upon loads of tee-tee soaked sheets and clothes, , dismantling and washing the car seats for the 100th time, scrubbing it out of the tile grout, wiping it off of the rim of the toilet and surrounding walls because little boys clearly close their eyes and spin around while going potty (there is just no other explanation for this). I was certain my tombstone would say:
Here lies Katie.
She finally keeled over due to the
pressures of urine management.
May she rest in peace.
But here I am. Nearly 2 years removed from active duty potty training with three kids ages 8, 6 and 4 who, I am proud to say, are all currently wearing big girl and big boy undies during both the day and night and who are using the potty correctly 90% of the time.
That’s right, I said 90%. The other 10% is reserved for the boys who still have trouble aiming their stream into the bowl and for those children who just can’t seem to wipe well enough.
Look, it happens.
Anyway, I made it. And you will, too. It may be hard but we can do hard things, parents! We can!
If I may, let me offer a few reassuring and encouraging potty-training mantras to sustain you on this toileting journey. These are mottos more so than methods; affirmations rather than advice. Because, the last thing you need is more advice. Am I right?
You are probably getting more than enough advice from you mother, mother-in-law, friends, friends of friends, acquaintances, neighbors, strangers in the grocery store, blog posts, mommy-message-boards, parenting forums and/or Pinterest.
Enough advice! How about a pep talk instead?!
#1: You Do You
No doubt you’ve read about or heard about several different ways to potty train. And, more than likely, you’ve already tried many of them. Boot camps, reward systems, potty training in a day, Montessori toilet learning, wait-until-they’re ready, start before they’re two, start when they’re a newborn (seriously, people… let’s not), allow them to potty train themselves. I mean, ask 50 different people and you will get just as many different answers and approaches.
Here’s the thing… You do you when it comes to potty training. That is not to say that having a plan and being consistent is not important. Personally, I think having a strategy in place and being mentally and physically prepared is half the battle. But what works for your stay-at-home-mom friend on Facebook that you haven’t seen since third grade may not work for you and your kids if you work full time.
Evaluate your life and ask yourself some questions.
Do you work full time or are you home with the kids? Do you have other small children in the house that may make things super challenging? What about older children that could be a big help? Did you just have another baby? Are you getting ready to have another baby? Are you sleep deprived at the moment? Is your spouse on board? Are the grandparents, daycare workers and nannies ready and willing to help with the potty-training process? Do you have enough paper towels and Clorox wipes handy??
These are all important questions you need to ask yourself before choosing a plan and getting started.
I have friends who waited until their kids were three and claim they potty trained themselves.
My Mother-in-law claims her oldest son potty trained in one day when he was not even two.
My husband’s cousin has a two-year-old daughter who woke up one day and decided on her own that she was “all done” with diapers.
I have a sister who nearly admitted herself to an insane asylum while training her strong-willed, three-year-old daughter.
I know plenty of people whose kids were nearly in Kindergarten before they were consistently using the potty and even more people whose kids still struggle with night-time bed wetting well into elementary school.
Every parent, every kid and every family is different and at varying life stages. So stop comparing yourself to others, put your blinders on and move forward with a plan that suits your lifestyle and needs.
You do you and make up your mind that “you” is totally awesome.
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#2: Accidents Will Happen… and that’s okay!
You guys… I can pretty much guarantee that your kid will pee and poop in their pants, on your flooring, in their car seat (the WORST) and most likely in the middle of Target. And this will probably happen more than once. It may happen a lot.
Now, I invite you to take a really deep breath and repeat after me.
Accidents will happen.
Accidents WILL happen.
They will. But, you know what? They neeeeeeeed to happen. Treat every accident as a learning opportunity to teach your child that poo-poo and tee-tee goes in the potty and not in their pants or on the floor.
I am a firm believer that a kid needs to be actively soiling themselves to learn how to NOT soil themselves. Each accident is getting you one step closer to potty training success.
The key to accident management is staying calm and being prepared.
Try not to freak the freak out when your kid wets their pants, clears out the community pool with a floating log of poo or drops a large load at the tippy top of the Chick-fil-A play place.
Yep, those things have happened in my family.
Simply take a deep breath and calmly say, “Uh-oh, tee-tee and poo-poo goes in the potty. Next time we will put our pee and poop in the potty instead of on/in (fill in the blank). Now, let’s get you cleaned up.”
Keep in mind that people of all ages, including toddlers, don’t like to be screamed at or freaked out on.
I mean, think about it. If you made a mistake at work and your boss went ballistic on you, would you say to yourself, “You know what? I really like the way he/she got so mad and yelled at me. I respect them for totally losing their cool and flipping out when I did that thing wrong and now I think I want to be a better person for them and do what they are asking me to do.”
No. Not gonna happen.
And just to reassure you if you are feeling guilty or bad, I have 100% freaked the FREAK out on my kids for having potty accidents and it was not pretty. In fact, one of my worst parenting moments of totally losing my crud followed a potty-training accident. But the good news is I calmed down, realized I was wrong, went back, apologized and ask for their forgiveness.
For heaven’s sake, there is no need to become a recluse and hole up inside your home for 3 to 6 months while your kid is learning to use the potty. Just plan ahead and be prepared.
Tell your friends and family, “Hey, we are in the throws of potty training but we are coming over anyway. I have supplies if things go terribly wrong and I promise to clean it all up.”
They’ll understand and (hopefully) be okay with it. Numerous kids of friends have peed and/or pooped on my floor. No big deal. Everyone’s going to live.
Just try and remember to keep an extra change (or three) of clean clothing handy when you leave the house. Throw a portable little potty in your car along with a towel, some plastic grocery bags, some Clorox wipes and a roll of paper towels. Cut holes in a trash bag for the car seat straps and line that sucker as best you can.
If you forget all these things and have absolutely no supplies with you, chances are you are no more than 10 minutes away from a store that sells paper towels and a $5 pair of pants.
#3: It Will Take Time
It goes without saying that every parent wants potty-training to be quick and painless. Of course we do!
We are a generation with very little patience that is pre-programed to expect instant gratification. High speed internet, text messaging, speedy email responses, live streaming, 2-day shipping, Instant Pots, Disney World Fast Passes, steam-in-a-bag vegetables, Freaky Fast Jimmy John’s Sandwiches and the always moving Chick-fil-A drive thru that puts all other fast food restaurants to shame.
Things happen in a hurry in our world and potty training should be no different, right?
You guys, it takes time. Like, a lot of time.
Sure, no doubt there are some rare, unicorn children who potty train very quickly and learn to read before Kindergarten but they are few and far between. Besides, those kids are probably super weird.
Totally kidding. I am sure they’re awesome, precious children. I am just trying to make myself feel better.
Look, it took all three of my kids 6 months to a year to get to the “90% potty trained level.” Remember what I said earlier, we are still about 10% short and may always be.
That means it took almost a full year for my kids to consistently put their waste in the proper location, climb on the potty without toppling over, pull their pants and undies up and down independently, remember to wash their hands well, stay dry throughout the night and wipe properly and without help (let’s be honest… I still assist with this occasionally).
It took nearly 12 months for me NOT to be constantly thinking about, planning for and dealing with potty accidents and toilet related activities. And just when I had finished with one kid, it was time to start on the next.
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I am not saying these things to discourage you but rather to give you hope.
These things take time. You have to be patient. It is unreasonable to think these kiddos, who have been wetting and soiling their diapers without a care in the world for the past two or three years, will learn how to use a toilet properly in two or three days.
Give them a little grace. Give yourself a little grace.
You may be covered in urine now and your bathroom may smell like a New York City Subway station but YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS!! I promise.
Also, if you have boys, your bathroom will always smell a little like a New York City Subway station so just go ahead and make peace with that now and invest in a few 3-wick candles from Bath and Body Works. I hear they’re having a good sale.
Now, go forth! You can do this, parents!
Put on your big girl or boy panties and get to work!
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